Late the other night, when I should have been sleeping, I came across this article posted on The Dodo. It's the story of a rabbit named Miss Bunz, and the journey her human embarked on to earn her trust and transform her from a skittish, fearful rabbit to a trusting companion. The story really pulled on my heartstrings for a number of reasons, one being that Miss Bunz is just beautiful and, looking at pictures of her, I couldn't help but be reminded of my amazing Miss Poppet.
House rabbits have been a part of my life for over 10 years now, and I've certainly had my share of success stories - rabbits I've taken in after years of neglect, a majority of them with a host of health issues, that I was able to bond and share the good life with.
The only rabbit I share my life with at the moment, Barnaby, is over 9 years old now. He's been a beloved part of our family since we adopted him in 2007. He has his own room, loves visiting with the dogs, still runs around like he did when he was much younger, and loves nothing more than laying on 'his' couch to watch TV. I know that, as far as rabbit lives go, he's got a good one. Despite living the good life for a majority of his life, unlike the adorable Miss Bunz from The Dodo article, Barnaby never really learned to love people.
Or maybe I should say...Barnaby's love is a 'look but don't touch' kind of love. He tolerates most people, at best. Over the years he has warmed up quite a bit to my fiance and I, but by "warmed up" I mean he'll come up to us for treats, sit near us while we watch TV, etc. He'll tolerate me petting him, but gives no indication that he actually enjoys it. He doesn't seek out attention from people and if you step over his line - his very, very thin line - he's off like a flash and will give you a few good thumps of his back feet for good measure.
Perhaps not really the great success story most people would hope for after adopting a 'broken' rescue animal. Especially not after spending 9 years caring for said animal. Barnaby's attitude towards people is certainly not due to my lack of trying to teach him to be more social.
But Barnaby is not broken. Barnaby is...Barnaby. What more can I say? He's perfect, just the way he is. I adore him just the way he is, even if the feeling is not mutual.
I think that, sometimes, one of the best things we can do for our pets is to learn to accept them for who they are.
Once we do that, we can develop realistic ways to make their (and our) lives better. What this means will be different in each individual situation. For a fearful dog, for example, it might mean working with them, training them, to hopefully eventually overcome their fear. For a rabbit who has never been very interested in spending time with people, but is otherwise quite content, it has meant, for us, learning to love Barnaby on his terms - learning his boundaries, what he's comfortable with and what he's not, and respecting that. Especially now that he's in his senior years, I want to make sure Barnaby's life is as happy and stress free as possible.
My pets are perfectly imperfect, and I love them all the more for it. Barnaby and I have a unique relationship that is every bit as rewarding as it would be if he were a more 'hands on' pet. I very much enjoy our time together, and because I've learned to respect his boundaries, I know that Barnaby does too!
I'd love to hear from other owners of perfectly imperfect pets! Is there something about your animal companion that you've had to learn to work around?